Put A Cork In It

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It finally happened, my cork container filled to overflowing. Can you guess how many corks are in this cagey little container?

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This clever wire formed barrel came to me as a gift a couple of Christmases past, and I have been busily engaged in selecting, and consuming the nectar of grapes fermented to perfection. It is no secret (in fact, nothing in my life is secret as one can tell by reading this blog) that I love red wine. It doesn’t matter what kind of red it is. Cabernet, Merlot, Syraz, Malbec, Pinot Moir, Chianti, you name it, I drink it. I listed them in order of my preference. So if you are looking for gift ideas, anything with one of those names on the label will be graciously received and consumed by me. If the color is not red then the game changes a bit. I also imbibe Riesling (Late Harvest) Pinot Grigio, Sauvignon Blanc, and for the life of me I can’t remember the name of my favorite. It’ll come to me after my brain cells wake up and actually begin working for a living.

Although I enjoy a full-bodied rich Cabernet from Napa Valley the most, I don’t always afford that level of wine. Most of the time, I limit my purchase to a max of seven dollars, with the average per bottle cost coming in around six dollars. I am on a fixed income you know, and I must spend judiciously.

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The number of corks in the container doesn’t tell the entire story, because it does not count the times I drink with my friends at their homes, or in a restaurant. I don’t enjoy drinking in a restaurant as well because my sluggish brain goes into hyper drive when it registers a per glass price that exceeds my average per bottle price. I keep getting a little voice in my head that says “Go home and drink you dummy, it is cheaper.” It wouldn’t be so bad except the brain goes into a loop and I get the message over and over.

On some nights, the buzz is better than on others. I haven’t determined if it is because the choice had a high alcohol content or if the volume did it for me. One thing I do know is that any wine will make me high quickly on an empty stomach, so I always order my wine served with the meal.

I have a couple of friends who make their own wine and have been nice enough to share their product with me. I have to say that they are pretty good wine makers. One of them has grapes shipped to his home from California, the other buys grape juices. The one who crushes his own grapes produces the limit allowed by law. He is Italian and he shares with his entire family. The other, produces less than a hundred bottles a year for his own consumption.

I thought about making wine many years ago, but chickened out for fear of failure. My mother bottled grape juice that she made from Concord grapes grown in her garden. One year, a very loud bang awakened my dad from his evening nap in front of the TV. He jumped out of his chair and looked outside to see what happened. He saw nothing but his own breath. The night air was at zero, and there was not a soul on the street. He continued looking for the source of the noise, and discovered his basement turned purple. One of Mom’s juice bottles, which she stored on a shelf behind his bar, fermented and blew up. The idea of an explosion in my house caused me to stay away from becoming a vintner, but I am extremely happy with the arrangement I have devised for my self, and love sampling the wines of many vintners from around the world.

The cage has 192 corks in it. The estimated value of the wine represented by those corks is $1152. Not bad for an old guy on a pension. Corks are another subject. For many years wine was kept in the bottle by stuffing a cylinder of a squeaky-rubbery substance known as “cork.” Cork was readily available and makes an excellent seal. What I never knew is that cork is the outer bark of a cork oak tree. As the world grows in population and the wine consumption increases, and the number of cork oak trees remains the same, cork becomes scarce. Trees don’t like it when their protective covering gets stripped off. To solve the cork shortage problem, a group of people got together and drank some very good wine. After the buzz was on they dreamed up a plastic solution. Today, they make corks of a compressible plastic foam encased with a thin plastic sheath. It does just as good a job as cork, and is more available than cork. Lower cost wines will use plastic corks, while the higher end wines still use real cork for stoppers, and really cheap wines use twist off metal caps. The twist offs are very easy to open and I prefer them to the corky types. I have broken a half-dozen cork removers and still struggle with pulling the damn things out of the bottle. My wife says that is a good thing because it slows down my consumption.

The name of the white  wine that escaped my memory is Chardonnay. I had to look it up. Evidently, the brain cells associated with remembering white wines were lost after I finished my last glass of the stuff.

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